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Michael Almaz

For over fifty years Michael has been involved in several media: journalism, film criticism, radio (news, features and drama) and light entertainment but always with the main focus on theatre, as entrepreneur, dramatist and director.

Michael was born in Tel-Aviv and studied theatre in New York. Back in his native city he founded a troupe called Zira (Arena) that specialized in controversial and experimental shows. His play ‘Across the Border’ was the first to deal with Palestinian refugees following the establishment of Israel. It was followed by two landmark productions: Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ (1953, before the London and New York premieres), Eugene Ionesco’s ‘The Bald Headed Prima Donna’ and ‘The Lesson’ (1955).  Three ‘bread and butter’ musicals followed before Michael moved to London to take up a post with the BBC Overseas Service.

His first plays in England were two large scale satires, ‘Every Number Wins’ (Stockholm and Little Theatre, London, 1965) and ‘The Rasputin Show’ (Arts Theatre, London, 1968).  Several plays about leading 19th Century revolutionaries followed: ‘Anarchist’ (about Bakunin, Marx and Nachayev - Royal Court, London), ‘Sailor’ (about Emma Goldman, Bracknell Theatre) and ‘Sunday School for Anarchists’ (about the ‘Chicago Haymarket Martyrs’).  The latter play was commissioned by Philip Emanuel, artistic director of the Pool Theatre, Edinburgh. Several short ‘lunchtime’ plays for the Pool followed, including ‘Cut!’ Michael’s homage to the monstrously megalomanic silent film directors who established Hollywood as the movie capital of the world and ‘The Port Said Performance’,  a ‘preposterous farce’ starring World War II leaders, gathered for a summit in Egypt in 1943 which later transferred to The Royal Court. Theatre, London.

Also in Edinburgh, Michael presented ‘Monsieur Artaud’, a study of the ideas of the creator of the Theatre of Cruelty and ‘Masoch’, featuring the wife of Leopold Sacher-Masoch. His ‘opposite’, the Marquis de Sade featured in ‘Dialogue with a Dying Man’. It was one of a series of long running adaptations presented in the Cafe Theatre, which Michael Almaz founded in 1974.  The repertoire included ‘Judgement’ after a story by Franz Kafka, ‘Letters from K.’ about the Czech writer’s jilted fiancee,  Felice Bauer and ‘Underground Man’ from a novel by Dostoevsky. Each of these plays chalked up hundreds of performances at the Cafe Theatre, but it was ‘Intimacy’, freely adapted from a story by  Jean-Paul Sartre, that held the record for the longest ever run on the London Fringe with over 3,000 performances in over 20 years.  Michael left the Cafe Theatre three years ago to concentrate on writing. He rewrote the ‘Rasputin Show’ as a play with music and penned a  new version of his farce ‘Smash Zed’, based on ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’, the anti-Semitic Russian forgery (1905) still widely believed in Europe, America and, specially, the Moslem world.

Michael has recently finished a new play, ‘Cow in the Desert’, about the trafficking of young Russian women in the Middle East. He is now working on a political novel.

Plays

CUT!
Dialogue with a dying man
Diary of a Madman
Intimacy
Judgement
Letters from K
SMASH Z
The Port Said Performance
The Rasputin Show
The Woman with the Dog
Underground Man

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